Carbon footprint of your iPhone.


The Apple iPhone has now been out for 5 months, and it can’t be long to go before the 3G model with GPS with be out. Now it’s my guess that all those tech savy loyalists who queued up outside the Apple Stores at 3 am before launch will be the first ones throwing out the old iPhone for the new one. (Just what Steve Jobs had planned)

Now please forgive me for spoiling their fun, but most of these cast offs are going to be almost new. I think that before we all do what Steve Jobs would love, we should have a thought for the environmental impact of our love to habitually upgrade just as soon as a newer product hits the shelf.

There have been a number of reports old and new, notably from the LCA of the Mobile Communication Services. This report takes a very in depth look at the environmental impact of the mobile phone manufacturing industry. The report was published before any figures on the Apple iPhone came out, however, the iPhone in particular has been heavily criticized by Greenpeace for being one of the most environmentally unfriendly phones on the market.


So how much emissions and energy did it take to manufacture that old (4 months new) iPhone?

Well a standard cellphone would need about 1390 MJ of energy and expels 60 kg of CO2. If these figures stand true for an old school clamshell phone, it’s fair to suggest that an iPhone’s emissions could be nearer double this, or to put it into prospective, the same emissions you’d make by taking a return flight to Cancun from Alabama on a Boeing 737.

The number of cellphones estimated to be produced in 2008 will be in the region of 1.4 billion. This is up nearly 20% from 2007. This will emit in the region of 120 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, something that makes even American Airlines look green.

So what can we do about it? Well for starters, don’t keep upgrading to the newest cellphone model every 3-4 months. If you do have to have the newest and the best, buy it pre-owned. Your new purchase = more demand for more manufacturing.

The consumer electronics gravy train

Now this isn’t exactly something that the likes of Sony, Apple or Motorola want to hear, but put it into prospective – these companies have made a fortune successfully reducing the product lifecycle of consumer electronics over the past decade. Replacing a phone or a camera before the warranty runs out is now part of modern living.

A good example can be seen with the Apple iPod, which sold 15 million units within 2 years of launch. 10 years before it had taken DVD Players 5 years to achieve this same level of unit growth. With newer models set to replace older ones more increasingly, it is projected that manufacturing demand on energy will continue to rise to accommodate this growth. Apple sold more than half a million iPhones in its first 3 days of launch.

China’s consumer electronics industry is now their most successful export category, worth $94 billion in 2007 and set to increase to $120 billion by 2015. These types of figures coming from China and India are already having a speculative effect on the global energy market.

With no tangible alternative to fossil fuel over the next 40 years, doesn’t it make sense to recycle our iPhones and other products by trading them in for a nearly new upgrade?


When the new 3g model is launched, trade 2 save will be eager to buy all the older models off of the tech enthusiasts who bought them new last year. We’ll be happy to sell them on to new owners with a warranty, who can even buy it for free if they trade-in their used goods too.


  1. More Carbon Footprint Stuff « Green Cottage - pingback on May 13, 2010 at 10:04 am

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